North Korea fired a suspected submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) off its east coast, South Korea's military confirmed Tuesday.
What do we know so far?
"Our military detected one unidentified short-range ballistic missile presumed to be an SLBM fired by North Korea," Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The South Korean military was "closely monitoring the situation and maintaining readiness posture in close cooperation with the United States, to prepare for possible additional launches."
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said initial analysis suggested North Korea had fired two ballistic missiles, and called the continued weapons tests "very regrettable."
The prime minister, who is going into a general election later this month, was pulled off the campaign trail to deal with the situation.
"I will drastically strengthen our defense capabilities. The Kishida administration is determined to protect our land, territorial sea and air space as well as the people's lives and assets no matter what," Kishida declared upon returning to Tokyo.
The US Indo-Pacific Command described the move as "destabilizing" but said it did not pose an immediate threat to the United States or its allies.
"While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel, territory, or that of our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation," it said in a statement.
Local news sources reported that Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said that he also believes that a ballistic missile involved an irregular orbit, indicating that it could have been launched from a submarine.
How significant is the latest missile test?
South Korean officials said the ballistic missile was launched from Sinpo, a major naval shipyard, where the North keeps submarines, and equipment for testing SLBMs, according to satellite photographs.
It was not immediately clear whether the missile was launched from a submarine or a submerged platform, as was done in previous tests.
The missile flew 430-450 km (267-280 miles) at an altitude of 60 km, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing sources.
Intelligence chiefs to hold talks
The weapons test comes as Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, arrived in Seoul for a three-way meeting with her South Korean and Japanese counterparts on Tuesday.
The intelligence chiefs were scheduled to discuss the standoff with North Korea, among other issues, according to reports.
The move also came after the US special representative on North Korea, Sung Kim, reiterated Washington's willingness for talks.
"We harbor no hostile intent toward (North Korea) and we are hopeful to meeting with them without conditions," he said following talks with his South Korean counterpart in Washington.
adi/rt (AFP, Reuters)